The Way It Is: Recalling the Verse of Tupac Shakur

In 2015 the United States has witnessed a resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement (#CRM). 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (#CRA’64) and Voting Rights Act of 1965 (#VRA’65), African Americans are still facing discrimination in the workplace, schools, financial institutions, housingcivic engagement, and via policing efforts within their community. While much of the anti-minority behaviors are now covert and institutionalized, the overt epithets persist. Furthermore, the support of political candidates who are opposed to affirmative action and equitable opportunities is wide-spread; and supporters of these figures wear their disdain for People of Color like a a badge of courage—a badge in the form of a Rebel Flag or Ann Coulter bumper sticker. More than 20 years after his death, Tupac, and the words he wrote, are more relevant than ever. Tupac must be recognized for what he was, a truth-teller.

While no-one should argue the fact that progress in relations have been made, we should not fall into the trap of believing that the election (twice) of an African American President and numerous Black Mayors, Police Chiefs, and political figures at all levels of government, portends equal treatment of Black & White. Nor can we pretend that all of the policies instituted to combat the issues created by centuries of segregation and faulty beliefs have worked exactly as planned. Rather, it is reasonable to believe that relations have deteriorated from the “high point” of the late 1970s/early 1980s. And while 1975-’85 was not all-together a portrait of peace, love, and unity, comparatively, the country had made substantial progress from just a decade prior.

I see no changes. All I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under.
I wonder what it takes to make this one better place…
let’s erase the wasted.
Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right.
‘Cause both black and white are smokin’ crack tonight.
And only time we chill is when we kill each other.
It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.
And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain’t ready to see a black President,
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact…
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.

The reasons for this phenomenon, the revitalization of The Movement, are likely many and varied, but at or near the top of the list must be the reawakening of people everywhere—for all of the obvious reasons: police brutality, discrimination in lending, housing, and educational opportunities, wage disparities & the widening of the income/wealth gap, and an enormous imbalance in economic opportunity based almost entirely on one’s home address. There is a growing realization that without pulling back the shades and exposing the truth of our country’s deep-seated difficulties in talking about this mythical creation of “race”, and everything that word entails, we will not be able to move forward and progress in a manner that provides Equitable Opportunities, Access, and JusticeFor All.

Tupac Shakur, one of our nation’s most celebrated and important musicians (and by all accounts, controversial),wrote a lot of music that challenged society’s wide-held belief’s about impoverished inner-city neighborhoods. In his song #Changes (originally recorded in 1992 with a remix released in 1998), Tupac dove into a number of these matters, providing the impetus for some young scholars, many of whom were not from neighborhoods resembling Nickerson Garden (Watts-L.A.), Hunts Point (The Bronx-NYC), or the Henry Horner Homes (Near West Side-Chicago), to dig deeper into what was really going on in The Other America. By exposing the lived experiences of these communities, to outsiders, Tupac, and other musicians, helped educate large numbers of Generation X (and some Baby Boomers and now Millennials), about the blurring of lines. The realization that life was not black and white—but rather a million shades of grey; and the differences between what was portrayed on the nightly news, on the printed page, and in the perceptions held by many Americans, versus, what was actually going on, spurred new research and outreach programs from coast-to-coast.

And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets and the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.
But now I’m back with the facts givin’ ’em back to you.
Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up, crack you up and pimp smack you up.

For all of the time and energy that have gone into the research and programs that aspire to alleviate the difficulties found in America’s urban cores: high rates of homelessness and mobility, the decreased tax bases as corporations and wealthier White families fled for the suburbs, the lack of decent jobs, the influx of drugs and all that accompanies that scene, and the continued lack of investment in the future e.g. schools, youth programming, internships and apprenticeships, the struggles continue.

But some things will never change.
Try to show another way, but they stayin’ in the dope game.
Now tell me what’s a mother to do?
Bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you.
You gotta operate the easy way.
“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way.
Sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,”
Well hey, well that’s the way it is.

Another common refrain in Tupac’s music concerns police brutality and the long history as it plays out in the African American community. It didn’t start with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Nor was it new in the instances of Rodney King, Michael Stewart, or Johnny Robinson. Murder, lynching, beating, and harassment of African Americans (and Africans, prior to the 1807 act banning the Slave Trade) began long before the U.S. of A. was a nation, and, it predates, if only briefly, the early police forces.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett attempted to put an end to the practice of mob justice via lynching (often known about by local law enforcement if not fully supported and aided by it) by making a public account, The Red Record, for the country’s populace to read. Wells-Barnett’s work should be credited with bringing about  Changes in the way our justice system handled alleged allegations, but we have not yet eradicated improper use of force from policing or neighborhood associations.

I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.

Our society has made progress, but how much depends a great deal on the view from your front stoop…and which “America” you live in. The biggest issues cannot be fixed with a policy, they require people to stop and think about the way they are treating other human beings, and then decide they want to Change. That said, there are policies, specifically fiscal, that could go a long way to leveling the playing field. Investing more, A LOT MORE, in public schools would be a good start. Providing inner-city schools with the funding to secure wrap-around services, similar to those that are currently being used by many of our Nation’s Promise Neighborhoods, would be a good first step.

Organizations such as the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) in Minneapolis, Partners for Education: Berea College (KY), and the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (CA), are providing a helping hand to members of local communities who need a little assistance getting things moving in the right direction. From health care and nutrition, to tutoring, to adult education classes, these programs give people not only hope, but also the skills to make sure the Changes they undergo, last.

Second, we could ask Congress to pass H.R. 40Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (Ta’Nehisi Coates made a great argument supporting reparations). This could serve as the catalyst to provide investment in both urban and rural communities where investment in schools, businesses, and public spaces/programs would help revitalize neighborhoods and lives. And third, the government could provide incentives to small and medium size businesses to bring jobs, Good Paying Jobs, to our city centers. This form of economic investment could pay dividends that have far-reaching effects, in terms of stability in housing, raising the tax base for school funding, and providing individuals & families a reason to reengage with the democratic process.

This may sound like a lot, but really, considering the alternative, the status quo, or even deteriorating relations and continued disinvestment in our country—our cities—our communities, it seems like a pretty good idea to make the necessary policy Changes to put us on a path that begins the healing process and thinks long-term about our Nation’s future well-being.

 

 

Rising Sun between the Brooklyn Bridge & the Manhattan Bridge
Rising Sun between the Brooklyn Bridge & the Manhattan Bridge

 

Manhattan Institute put out a Civic Report on New York City’s Poorest Neighborhoods. (2014)

Changes

Come on come on
I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.
First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers.
Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other.
“It’s time to fight back”, that’s what Huey said.
2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead.
I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin’ changes.
Learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of 2 distant strangers.
And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?
I’d love to go back to when we played as kids
but things changed, and that’s the way it is
Come on come on
That’s just the way it is
Things’ll never be the same
That’s just the way it is
aww yeah
I see no changes. All I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under.
I wonder what it takes to make this one better place…
let’s erase the wasted.
Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right.
‘Cause both black and white are smokin’ crack tonight.
And only time we chill is when we kill each other.
It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.
And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain’t ready to see a black President, uhh.
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact…
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.
But some things will never change.
Try to show another way, but they stayin’ in the dope game.
Now tell me what’s a mother to do?
Bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you.
You gotta operate the easy way.
“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way.
Sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,”
Well hey, well that’s the way it is.
We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.
And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets and the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.
But now I’m back with the facts givin’ ’em back to you.
Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up, crack you up and pimp smack you up.
You gotta learn to hold ya own.
They get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile phone.
But tell the cops they can’t touch this.
I don’t trust this, when they try to rush I bust this.
That’s the sound of my tool. You say it ain’t cool, but mama didn’t raise no fool.
And as long as I stay black, I gotta stay strapped and I never get to lay back.
‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the payback.
Some buck that I roughed up way back… comin’ back after all these years.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat. That’s the way it is. uhh
Some things will never change

Tupac – Do For Love; I Ain’t Mad At Cha

Isabel Wilkerson‘s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, sheds light on the lives of African Americans’ journeys out of the Jim Crow South, to the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Superb! Pack a lunch, it’s a long read but worth every minute of your time.

Tanner Colby has written a great book about how we (as a society) have come to be in the place we are. Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in AmericaEspecially good for anyone familiar with life in Alabama, Louisiana, K.C. MO & K.C. K., and NYC. But, really, just read it. You’ll Love it!

 

Rugged Individualism: It’s Not Really So Real

There is a myth that persists in our society, a myth that the rugged individual (RI)(read: male, usually White, tough, rough, “self-made man“, does it “his way”; think – John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Indiana Jones, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and the Marlboro Man) is the one who gets things done and makes our country the military, economic, and “moral” superpower it is. He explores new places or ideas, fights the “good fight”, goes his own way & finds success, and usually saves the day—in one way or another. He is the reason, some believe, that America is great. He is also the role model for those who wish to remake America in his image (that is to say, without government policies that intervene in social or economic affairs—for the most part). They say that this RI personality trait lies within the social fabric of American society, it’s part of “our” DNA. The only problem with this kind of thinking, is that it’s leaving out 95% of the story, and anyone who is not of the male gender. Rugged individualism isn’t really real.

The other 95% of the story tells of how these tough guys were often raised by families that cared about their physical, mental, and likely spiritual, well being. Additionally, they were raised in communities (be it rural, urban, or the netherworld that lies between) where neighbors helped neighbors, believing in the notion that the whole is greater than any individual part. Without this solid foundation upon which they were raised (that the well-being of the local polity and its constituents take precedent over any one individual), it is doubtful that the more interesting 5% of their story would ever occur.

It should also be pointed out that rugged individualism, the American type, is not exclusively practiced by the male species nor dominated by the descendants of European Americans; men & women of all ethnicities have practiced some form or another of this character trait ever since our continent was first inhabited by Native Peoples more than 10,000 years ago.

Whether the communities that raise these RIs chose to act in a collective manner because of the biblical teachings they heard on Sunday’s, or because they knew that their community was stronger if every person was healthy, educated (in whatever professions were important to the continued existence of their inhabitants) and engaged in furthering the group’s well being, they worked together for the common good. This fraternal style of living arrangement does not preclude any RI from performing heroic acts, or spending long, lonely, hours developing a plan/model for a new venture; but at the end of the day, the solo acts are only one small part of the lived experience of every individual’s greater existence. The ongoing support from friends, family, neighbors, teachers, community, et al. is far more important in any success achieved by “The Great One”, and in the telling of the full story. And this is where some of Americas’ Great Divides have their beginnings.

The real history of our great country is not one of solo actors daring to be great, but rather communal actors being supported in their not truly individual endeavors. While the period of the Columbian Exchange and beyond was filled with the efforts of many capable sailors and crew, we only know the names of the ships’ Captains; they are given all the credit for traversing the oceans and seas.  Similarly, those brave souls who took their wagons Westward are only remembered by their family, or towns for which they are a namesake (the Donner Party exempted), yet the first Governor of each state is prominently displayed on public schools and other buildings/parks/etc. Civil War buffs remember that General George Pickett showed extreme bravery when he led his men into certain slaughter on day 3 at Gettysburg, but those thousands of men who followed Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble, also showed extreme bravery by marching into an open field— knowing the Union Army waited 3/4 of a mile ahead. Certainly, we cannot hope to remember the names of every person who has aided in every successful venture, but neither should we fail to recognize the importance of all those hands that helped to make events possible.

On the one side, the pro RI side, we have people arguing that individuals, not the government, are responsible for taking care of themselves. Whether “care” entails work, medical needs, 2nd amendment rights, education, or basic needs (food, shelter, safety), they argue that individuals should bear the burden of providing for themselves. These folks are more prone to argue for policies that decrease: government oversight generally, business & banking regulations, and taxes.

The other extreme is the far left-end of a socialist-style system (which is very different from a liberal progressive form of gov’t.). Governance of this sort provides many, if not all, of the necessities that people need to survive, though not necessarily thrive; from free or subsidized food and shelter, to healthcare, education, and employment. This extreme doesn’t find much support in the U.S. Neither of these systems, as is, are particularly useful in a modern economy, but they both offer ideas that could, through skillful compromise and some tweaking, be used for the greater good. Compromise, however, according to Cadillac (ads by Publicis Worldwide) and Elbert Hubbard, is for weak men. I would disagree with this premise, as would any wise politician hoping to gain passage of a controversial piece of legislation.

In between the far left and the far right are a wide variety of political ideologies, belief systems, and traditions that dictate, to some extent, regional and personal mores, values, and norms. While it is likely that we (our collective society) agree on far more than we disagree on, some “choose” (aided by various forms of media) to focus on those issues that divide us. The divisive list includes: Roe -v- Wade, 2nd Amendment, proper role of government(s), social insurance & social welfare programs, military spending, role of Christianity in schools/society/gov’t, immigration, minimum wage and the wealth gap (ideal and actual), social justice, and marriage equality. This seems like a big list of very important issues, and it is. But it’s not bigger than the list of items that we accomplish every day.

Work (paid and unpaid), caring for family, keeping up our homes, preparing meals, supporting others (mentally, physically, emotionally), taking care of the self, remembering to be nice to people (because one never knows what another is going through), volunteering, and learning, are accomplishments that many people successfully conquer, daily. So why do we insist on arguing about topics that are not of great enough import to get a majority of us to the polls on election day? (I believe they are important enough, but our national voting record tells me I am in the minority).

Part of the problem stems from our lack of understanding each other. We interact with and live amongst people, with whom we share commonalities. This serves to reinforce our beliefs and polarize those who dare to think differently. When we are continually told that our beliefs are right/correct/valid, and we hear the vitriol directed at those with other ideas, it’s natural to assume that “those people” have it wrong. But what if they don’t? Or, what if they do but don’t know it, because no one is willing to engage in civil conversations to understand another perspective. Or, what if the truth lies somewhere in the middle (like the suburbs)? And what about the RIs who claim that all sides have it wrong and that we should rebel against all government action and fend for ourselves (while surrounded by 500 friends and family members, a whole crew of RIs)?

This calls for conversations. Real conversations, one-to-one, face-to-face, “a” to “b”, you get the picture. These conversations take time, and courage, and sometimes cold beer(s). But this is the best way to learn about our differences, our fellow citizens, our brother and sisters, our countrymen/women and those with whom we share so much yet know so little about. Urban and rural people need to connect and learn why each feels the way they do about gun control and gun rights; it’s not as simple as one might think. Republicans and Democrats could learn a lot from talking to each other about the employment, economic, and moral dilemmas that come with income inequality and the pro’s and con’s of unions. Children of privilege could gain new insights into the power of words by talking with Ta’Nehisi Coates. And those Americans in positions of power and/or with greater wealth could speak with folks in middle and lower socio-economic communities and “get in touch” with what it’s like to not be wealthy; possibly giving them pause before spouting off about the minimum wage being one of the Democrats’ lame ideas .

Policies that promote individual risk and reward (such as deregulation of the banking and business sectors or tax cuts that do more for those at the top than those at the bottom) over the needs of the greater society are responsible, by and large, for many of our current economic issues. When more of the wealth (which is finite) is concentrated in the pockets of fewer individuals, it serves to depress an economy. The concept is not complex; if you have less money, you will spend what you have in order to survive and support anyone that depends on you. If you have more money (a lot more), you will invest it, or stash it offshore, or play other sorts of games to keep from paying taxes. Money that is hidden is not helping our economy; money that is spent in local businesses, whether on french fries, fuel, or fixtures for the kitchen, is contributing to the supply and demand cycle that economies rely on.

We have come to this point in our nation’s history (vast economic inequity) in part by crediting individuals with making America what it is today rather than talking about nation-building as an effort undertaken by all of us: enslaved Africans & African Americans; construction, industrial, & agricultural workers; miners; lumberjacks; fishermen/women; teachers; engineers; volunteers; men & women of the Armed Forces; bakers & brewers; salespeople, I.T. professionals, athletes, public servants, thespians & artists of all types, and all the other Americans and immigrants who have taken part in building our country, should be recognized for their substantial efforts in making America the country it is. By placing the elite on a pedestal, we have given them carte blanche to do as they please in all matters financially, legally, and politically; and they have done what is in their best interest, made money for themselves and their friends and left everyone else standing on the far side of the moat.

I don’t begrudge anybody from trying to make money. Money is not the issue; the issue lies in the mindset that those who are the most successful have achieved their goals through nothing more than their own hard work, tenacity, and sheer brilliance, choosing to ignore all the people that have played a role in them reaching their zenith (which tends to lead to less sharing of that created wealth).

While individuals accomplish goals everyday: open businesses, graduate from college, get promoted, win a wrestling tournament, write a book, etc., etc.,;  they don’t do it without the support of their extended family/community. Be it financial, mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual, they are supported by many people from the various contacts they have made. Additionally, they are encouraged/motivated by loved ones; AND, the Local, State, and/or Federal government(s) provided services (e.g. infrastructure, emergency services/first responders, disaster relief, education, possibly tax breaks, grants & loans, and much much more) that allowed them to focus on achieving their goal.

Rugged individualism is not a myth, but neither is it the whole story. Some people have the innate ability to rise up and conquer whatever is thrown at them. This doesn’t happen through DNA alone, it is a skill that is first learned, then honed, and eventually ready to be used. It only exists because s/he had the opportunity to learn and the time to hone, and finally, the access to a place where using it offers the potential of reaping great rewards.

Leif Erikson—Rugged Viking type, got by with a lot of help from his friends
Leif Erikson—Rugged Viking type, got by with a lot of help from his friends

If you’re interested in exploring the political relationship between public and private actors and how policy actions shape societies, read Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox. This book lays out some of the major issues that policy makers have to deal with when considering new policies and the communities they affect.

A few political cartoons about rugged individualism: AlaskaMedia production; RI

2016 Presidential Politicking—& The Donald’s All in (sort of, but not really, it’s complicated):

President Obama's 1st Inauguration, 20 Jan. 2009—it was COLD!
President Obama’s 1st Inauguration, 20 Jan. 2009—it was COLD!

The 2016 Presidential race has officially started! With Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, and Donald (Hashtag) Trump (amongst a host of others), tossing their hats in the ring, we are now starting the run-up to the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, seven months away. Because there are so many candidates, especially in the Republican ring, and due to the fact that it is confusing to stay up-to-speed on which (major) candidates are pushing which policies, and pushing back on others, I have prepared a 2016 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMER, which will be updated after DJT (who knew he would still be around come June 2016) and others drop out of the race…

(this is presumptuous of me, I know, but Trump’s track record speaks for itself, and he hasn’t given us any reason to think he’ll start acting “Presidential” in the next 16 months. Moreover, he’s Donald Trump, we’ve seen this circus before. Donald is not really a complicated man (but he tries to give that appearance), he’s a business man, he understands how to make money; he does not, I would argue, understand American politics very well and that is why he is unlikely to remain in the race for more than 3-6 months, if that. He’s made his splash, he’ll create some controversy, remind people that he’s still here, probably roll out some new t.v. show, business idea, or announce he’s going to be a music producer (one never knows), and then sit back and have his accountants count those Benjamins that his little scheme netted the Trump Organization (I’m now (June 2016) wondering if this has been an attempt to get his casinos a new infusion of cash)).

This initial post will focus primarily on domestic policy issues, as many candidates are still educating themselves on foreign policies. (Candidates’ stances are taken from their campaign websites and/or PBS online. Also, the issues below are not meant as an exhaustive list; rather, they are a sampling of how the candidates view specific policies and how liberal, conservative, or moderate each candidate is on each issue.)

First the Democrats, because the list is shorter and “D” comes before “R” in the alphabet.

Lincoln Chafee (former Governor-Rhode Island, former Mayor of Warwick, RI, and captain of the wrestling team at Brown University-senior season): Chafee’s campaign is focused on four main priorities. He wants to: 1) keep America out of “foreign entanglements”, using “brains…not biceps” to bring about peaceful solutions to international affairs; 2) support the middle class through “incentives and protections” and ensure those Americans in need of assistance, have access to fully funded social programs; 3) act as a steward of the environment while considering the needs of our energy infrastructure, and finding a balance between the two; 4) safeguard personal privacy protections relating to the individual liberties as outlined by our Constitution, guarantee citizens’ rights to privacy, and make certain our country is secure; 5) supports the federal govt’s role in “setting or organizing education standards”; 6) initially voted for the Patriot Act but is now against it; 7) create a path to citizenship for immigrants and provide them with in-state tuition rates, if they meet requirements; 8) make possession of small amounts of marijuana a non-criminal offense; 9) continue with the ACA and work towards a universal style healthcare system; 10) pro-choice and supportive of same-sex marriage; and 11) reform taxes by ending deductions, lowering rates, and placing limits on the estate tax.

Hillary Clinton (website-Spanish & English) (former Sec. of State, former U.S. Senator-New York, Presidential campaign (2008), 1st Lady-U.S. & Arkansas, and Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees fan): Clinton kicked off her campaign in 2000, when she ran for, and won, the Junior Senator slot in New York. Since then, she has been padding her resume: (1.5) terms as U.S. Senator, one unsuccessful Presidential bid, four years as Secretary of State, and a lot of time preparing for 2016. Clinton supports a long list of policy actions (too numerous to enumerate every one, so I’ll list 11 that capture a wide swath of her campaign literature), to include: 1) paid leave and child care that is high quality and affordable; 2) immigration reform that creates pathways to citizenship; 3) reforming the criminal justice system; 4) a minimum wage increase & 5) tax relief for America’s working families; 6) protecting the right to organize; 7) making college affordable; 8) clean energy; 9) fixing the Voting Rights Act; 10) keeping the ACA and Social Security intact; and 11) campaign finance reform, to name a few. Marijuana legalization is one issue where she hasn’t made up her mind, yet.

Martin O’Malley (website-Spanish & English) (former Governor-Maryland, former Mayor of Baltimore, and still singing & playing the banjo, in O’Malley’s March): O’Malley’s “Vision for the Future” includes 12 themes. Briefly, they are: 1) increasing the federal minimum wage to an hourly rate of $15 and “restoring workers’ collective bargaining power”; 2) provide greater oversight/regulation to big banks & Wall Street, and reinstate Glass-Steagall; 3) affordable child-care and pre-k and debt-free college and modernization of our high schools; 4) investments, nation-wide, in infrastructure & mass transit, and “affordable housing near good jobs and good schools”; 5) support of women and families—leave policies (post child-birth), equality of pay and “safe and affordable child care”; 6) invest in public education, local community initiatives and “critical programs” e.g. earned income tax credit, to cut poverty in half, within 10 years; 7) creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and passing the DREAM Act; 8) expanding benefits for senior citizens; 9) clean renewable energy tied to job creation; 10) enforcement of anti-trust laws and making trade deals that benefit America’s workers; 11) modernization of voting registration, restoration of the Voting Rights Act, removal of voter I.D. laws, and “embracing citizen-funded elections”; and 12) a Federal Government that is transparent, accountable, and high-performing. Additionally, O’Malley is pro-choice, would abolish capital punishment, expand the ACA and move to an “all payer” system, and increase gun control to include fingerprinting individuals wishing to purchase a handgun.

Bernie Sanders (website-Spanish & English) (running on the Democratic ticket but is an Independent and self-described socialist) (current U.S. Senator-Vermont, former U.S. Congressman-Vermont , former Mayor of Burlington, VT, and former organizer for SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee)): Sanders keeps his list of issues, on his campaign site, fairly short, but he is extremely passionate about these topics: 1) The continued difficulties of America’s shrinking middle-class due to wage and wealth inequalities—and he will address the effects of these inequalities on citizens who are not in the middle and upper economic strata in the “rigged economic system”; 2) the removal of “Big Money” from politics generally and campaigns more specifically; 3) the effects of climate change on our planet, now and in the future, and the need for increased investment in wind and solar power, wants to charge corporations for carbon emissions. Also, Sanders supports: 4) 2 years free tuition at State colleges and the ability to refinance student loans at a lower rate; 5) allowing states to set waiting periods for handgun sales and a ban on assault style rifles; 6) changing the ACA to a single-payer health system; and 7) creating a path to citizenship and allowing some groups of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. ( e.g. children brought as minors—akin to the DREAM Act)

Potential Democratic Candidate:

Jim Webb (former U.S. Senator-Virginia, former Assistant Sec. of Defense, former Sec. of the Navy, and U.S. Marine (not former, because “Once a Marine, always a Marine“)

And the Republicans:

Jeb Bush (website-Spanish & English) ( Former Governor-Florida and fluent in Spanish): Bush is still developing his talking points, but PBS did get him to talk about several topics that will likely play roles in the forthcoming debates. 1) On education, he believes the Common Core is a good program but is opposed to forcing states to institute the standards. 2) On guns, he would expand gun owners’ rights (the article did not mention what exactly this means and I don’t want to guess). 3) On immigration, he would create a “legal status, not a path to citizenship”. 4) He is for each state making its own decision concerning the legalization of marijuana. 5) The Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), under his watch, would be replaced by a “‘market-oriented’ alternative”. 6) On social issues, “ban most abortions after 20 weeks” and  believes in 1 man-1 woman, for marriage.

Dr. Ben Carson (website-Spanish & English) (former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery-Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, recipient of Spingarn Medal (2006) and Presidential Medal of Freedom (2008) and holds 67 Honorary Doctorate Degrees): Dr. Carson lays out plans for 10 areas, 7½* are domestic related (*Gitmo – Naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba) qualifies as ½ because if it closes, the remaining 116 detainees could be transferred to the U.S. (domestic policy) for detention and/or trial, but that’s a BIG if). 1) He believes in local control for public schools and would overturn Common Core; 2) fiscal responsibility through passage of a Constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget; 3) Health Savings Accounts would help “re-establish a strong and direct relationship between patients and their physicians”; 4) Carson would like to “keep faith in our society”. He is advocating for all religions to have the right to express their beliefs in public, without fear of government intervention (his site does not state if this idea relates to prayer in schools, 10 commandments statues in front of courthouses, or other religious displays); 5) Pro-Life; 6) Pro 2nd Amendment; 7) On taxes, he touts reform aimed at shortening, simplifying, and eliminating the loopholes; and 7½) “Keep Gitmo Open”.

Ted Cruz (current U.S. Senator-Texas, born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and, might be the only “Texan” (in quotes because this calls into question who he really is) who hates avocados)): Cruz is a Harvard trained lawyer, believes very strongly in preserving the Constitution, and: 1) He is pro-life and believes in “traditional” marriage but allows that states should individually decide the marriage question; 2) does not support the Affordable Care Act but, 3) he does support school choice, in the form of allowing Title 1 funds to be used in public or private schools, he is for local control of schools and against the Common Core; 4) authored legislation to prevent “taxpayer dollars [from] subsidizing corporate fat cats”; 5) would cut the corporate tax rate to 15%; 6) against allowing current undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.; 7) anti-net neutrality and wouldn’t tax access to the internet; and 8) likes the flat tax and thinks with an easier tax system, the IRS would be unnecessary.

Carly Fiorina (ran for U.S. Senate-California, 2010, lost to Barbara Boxer (D) in general election, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard): Fiorina believes: 1) that climate change is not a myth and humans are responsible, but the government doesn’t have the ability to do much to control it; 2) education standards should apply nationwide but local control should remain in place; 3) in protecting the 2nd amendment and that assault weapons should not be banned; 4) the ACA should be repealed and replaced with more competition in the insurance marketplace; 5) Congress should pass the DREAM Act and other immigrants should not be granted a “direct path” to citizenship; 6) Roe -v- Wade should be overturned and marriage consists of a male-female union—civil unions are ok for same-sex partnerships; and 7) the tax code should be less confusing and the gas tax should not be raised.

Lindsey Graham (current U.S. Senator-South Carolina, former U.S. Congressman-S.C., former South Carolina Legislator, U.S. Air Force-Retired, and has supposedly never sent an email): The Senator is a vociferous advocate of “Security” for “Our Nation, Our Future, Our Values”. Here is where Graham stands on some of the issues: 1) he acknowledges that climate change is real, and man-made and he is in favor of limiting carbon emissions; 2) campaign finance laws need reform and Congress should be able to limit spending; 3) on education, he does not support Common Core standards and would like to see more local and state control for school districts; 4) assault weapons and larger magazine clips should be easier for most people to access and he is against expanding background checks generally; 5) securing the border is the most important aspect of immigration reform and then he would work on a path to citizenship for some immigrants that are currently living in the U.S.; 6) He is against the ACA but enrolled in South Carolina’s exchange (which falls under the order of the ACA (he is a complicated man) and he is not the only anti-ACA Republican candidate to do so); 7) he is pro-life and believes marriage is between 1 man & 1 woman, but he also states that America should accept the Supreme Courts decision on gay marriage; and 8) he is not completely against raising taxes, as a means to balance the budget, and he likes the idea of a flat tax.

Mike Huckabee (former Governor & Lieutenant Governor-Arkansas, Presidential campaign (2008), and served as a Baptist pastor for 12 years): Huckabee is a staunch conservative and his faith guides his decision making processes. He takes the following positions: 1) energy independence, to include exploration of the Arctic and the Outer Continental Shelf, wind, and solar; 2) no new gun controls (“restrictions, registrations,regulations, & mandates”); 3) opposed to amnesty for immigrants and strong advocate of securing the border; 4) reform colleges & universities to control costs, and eliminate the Federal Dept. of Education and the Common Core, and return to local control of schools; 5) healthcare reform by way of getting rid of the ACA and providing Americans with “solutions and choices”; 6) protect Social Security and Medicare; 7)  proponent of the “fair tax“; 8) against same-sex marriage and abortion (though he makes an exception for abortion if the life of the mother is at risk); and 9) still not convinced that climate change is a big deal and not sure if humans play a role in it.

Bobby Jindal (current Governor-Louisiana, former U.S. Congressman-LA, named President of the University of Louisiana system at the age of 28, and Willie Robertson (Duck Dynasty) has endorsed Jindal): Jindal, the youngest major candidate, so far, promotes the following: 1) climate change is real and humans play some role though he’s not sure how big that role is; 2) dislikes Common Core standards, likes “school choice” and wants to decrease funding to State Colleges/Universities while promoting for-profit colleges; 3) gun access expansion; 4) border security, before any path to citizenship can be debated, and no “radical muslims” allowed to emigrate to the U.S., under his plan; 5) repeal and replace the ACA with a proposal that he helped author; 6) pro-life and still fighting against same-sex marriage; and 7) he believes eliminating state income taxes will create jobs, and local governments should be able to pick up the slack of a decreased state revenue stream.

George Pataki (former Governor-New York, former State Assembly Member-N.Y., former Mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., U.S. Delegate to the United Nations (2007), and he is a self-proclaimed environmentalist): Policy positions include: 1) allow the private market to take the lead on combatting climate change (Pataki is an environmental consultant); 2) give states control over public education and get rid of Common Core; 3) bans on some assault weapons, require trigger locks on new guns, and raise the legal purchase age to 21 (currently 18); 4) marijuana legalization should be a state-by-state basis; 5) favors the Patriot Act; 6) the ACA should be repealed and a new “market-based” health care law should be enacted (which is basically what the ACA is); and 7) rewrite the federal tax code and cut taxes.

Rand Paul (current U.S. Senator-Kentucky and he earned an M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine (who does he cheer for when Kentucky and Duke square off?)) Dr. Paul is a self-declared Libertarian (I think the vast majority of American citizens are pro-liberty but many Libertarians take this idea a bit further). Here are his ideas: 1) Do away with the Patriot Act and mass data collection of citizens private information; 2) Get rid of the Dept. of Education and the Transportation Security Administration (he would privatize the latter); 3) immigration reform with two caveats, increased border security and increased numbers of work visas for agricultural workers; 4) reform of the justice system, to include felon voting rights (for some, non-violent felons), and reclassification of drug offenses as misdemeanors; 5) pro-life but would leave Roe-v-Wade alone and “traditional” marriage supporter but doesn’t believe government should get involved in peoples’ personal lives; 6) a flat tax of no more than 17%; 7) and supports term limits on elected officials.

Rick Perry (former Governor & Lieutenant Governor-Texas, Presidential Campaign (2012), former member of the Texas House of Representatives, served in the U.S. Air Force, and he is an Eagle Scout): Perry’s introduction to Presidential campaigning was brief, in 2012. He’s hoping this go-around lasts a little longer. Here are his ideas: 1) Climate change is a natural occurrence and there is no proof that it is human made or permanent; 2) get rid of the Dept. of Education and Common Core; 3) proposed partial privatization of Social Security and/or raising the retirement age and lowering benefits for the wealthy; 4) secure the border then deal with immigration reform and allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, additionally, he is opposed to the DREAM Act; 5) repeal the ACA and let each state figure out healthcare on its own; 6) believes that cyber security needs to be upgraded and should be a priority for our government; 7) pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage; 8) first time, non-violent, drug offenders should be offered rehabilitation, not criminalized; and 9) one flat tax for everybody, 20%

Marco Rubio (current U.S. Senator-Florida, former Speaker and Member-Florida House of Representatives, adjunct professor of political science at Florida International University, in Miami, FL): Rubio takes the following positions: 1) Climate change is happening but not because of human actions; 2) repeal the ACA and replace it with tax credits and less healthcare regulation; 3) opposes net neutrality; 4) reform immigration laws once the border is secure; 5) marriage is between a man and a woman but we should abide by the Supreme Court’s decision and he is pro-life; 6) simplify the tax code, reduce corporate taxes, and increase the child tax credit; 7) supporter of the 2nd Amendment; and 8) sponsor and co-author of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Actthe idea is that colleges would be required to tell students how much they would make, on average, all else equal, based on the degree they were pursuing when they entered as first year students (which would be great if it were only so simple…and we only needed engineers, healthcare specialists, and teachers)

Rick Santorum (former U.S. Senator-Pennsylvania, former U.S. Congressman-PA, Presidential campaign (2012), and he once represented the World Wrestling Federation in Court): Santorum would: 1) push an economic plan with a “flat and fair tax” (combination of cuts & simplification), ask for a very moderate minimum wage increase, and “end the IRS as we know it”; 2) increase border security and reduce immigration by 250,000 people annually; 3) continue his fight against same-sex marriage and against abortion; 4) return local education control to school districts and communities and get rid of the Common Core; 5) push for more drilling, oil & gas, and does not believe humans play any role in climate change; 6) repeal the ACA and replace it with a mix of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and tax credits and high risk pools for those who qualify; and 7) would “consider cutting cost-of-living increases” for current Social Security recipients.

Donald Trump (according to The Donald’s campaign site, he is “…the very definition of the American success story…”; if that story contained a real-estate tycoon as a father and business practices that are likened to that of a slumlord, then yes, that would qualify as “the very definition”, but I have trouble believing that the majority of people would accept his idea of an American success story. Beyond that, his political career is filled with possible campaigns that never materialized, stumping on behalf of other candidates, and twice being named the “Statesman of the Year” by the Sarasota, Florida, Republican Party (for what it’s worth)). Trump’s beliefs are no secret, ever, though his party loyalties change somewhat frequently, like the University of Oregon football team’s uniforms. Here is where he stands, currently: 1) climate change is a hoax that was created by the Chinese to gain a competitive advantage in manufacturing; 2) wind turbines (energy production) are bad environmentally and aesthetically (but no mention of how nice a fracking rig looks on the skyline, or the beauty achieved through removal of an Appalachian mountaintop); 3) Social Security and Medicare should be left alone (he “know[s] where to get the money from”. [and] Nobody else does.”); 4) pro 2nd Amendment but supports banning assault rifles and is ok with a longer waiting period; 5) against a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but would give foreign college students legal status if they graduate from an American university, wants more European immigrants, but not immigrants from south of the U.S. border; 6) repeal and replace the ACA…with something akin to Canada’s system, aka, universal healthcare (not sure what to make of this); 7) pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage; and 8) would get rid of corporate taxes altogether and decrease the individual tax rate.

Potential Republican Candidates:

Chris Christie (current Governor-New Jersey, former District Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said he will announce on Tuesday, June 30th, and has attended more than 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts)

Scott Walker (current Governor-Wisconsin, former State Assembly member-WI, and counts the Koch Brothers as supporters)

John Kasich (current Governor-Ohio, former U.S. Congressman-Ohio, former Ohio State Senator, and he is not a fan of the Coen Brothers’ Academy Award winning Fargo)

Between here and Iowa, a lot can change. My next update (closer to Iowa’s caucuses) will focus on a smaller list of candidates and include domestic and foreign policy issues.

If you are interested in reading other blogs that focus on politics, foreign and domestic, Barry Casselman has a great site, and here is a list of others.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall (2010)
Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall (2010)

About 26.3 & Beyond

26.3 & Beyond is not a blog/site that is dedicated to those marathoners that choose to go an extra tenth of a mile. Neither is it related to mistrials in a court of law. 26.3 & Beyond is in reference to the lived experiences of people everywhere.

Regardless of the type of work one is engaged in, it is likely that on occasion you find yourself going that extra mile. The day’s work was completed, or so you thought; but no, one more task requires your attention. And for some, it is simply an anomaly, a break in the routine. Yet, for others, working overtime, or two or three or more jobs, is part of their routine. When they hit that 26.2 marker, 3/4 of the way through their typical day, 26.3 represents the start of the next leg of their daily grind.

Working and going to school; working outside the home and acting as caregiver and homemaker inside the home; working, working, and working, until the day is done; these are the realities of the 26.3ers. We don’t get a medal for finishing each day—but we do get the opportunity to have another go at the world, tomorrow. Ever hopeful, 26.3 is a reminder that while life may not be perfect, not just as we planned it, we can greet each new dawn with the belief that “today” might be the day that something extraordinary happens. 

The reality, as Nelson Mandela once said, is that “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” And so on we go, one day after the next, one foot in front of the other. Living for the small victories, the reasons to celebrate with family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers on occasion. 26.3 is a number that symbolizes strengthresiliencetenacity/grit, and optimismextreme optimism. So, “When the going gets tough“, and life is hard, don’t hang your head and blubber. Remember, you are part of a crew, a very large, and sometimes motley, crew. Not all full-time members, some seasonal, some part-time, but members just the same. We’re all in this together.

26.3 & Beyond will provide weekly updates (I’m using the terms “weekly” and “updates”, loosely) on topics that affect our daily lives. My intention is to provide insights into the policy issues that are in the national spotlight as well as some that are specific to locales in the 50 states. Additionally, there will be posts when a need for policy action or reform goes unheard; something that is in obvious need of a fix and yet it is not receiving the attention it deserves. If it affects the common man/woman/child, it will likely be covered here.

Faidley's - Best Crab Cakes on Planet Earth: Lexington Market-Baltimore
Faidley’s – Best Crab Cakes on Planet Earth: Lexington Market-Baltimore

This blog will expound on a wide range of subjects and expand the conversation on existing information with personal narratives, peer-reviewed literature, historical insights, empirical analysis, art, music, graphs, experts from around the globe, and a non-sequitur or two for good measure. A sampling of the subjects that will be covered are: education (pre-K to life-long learners), food & drink, health  & wellness (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional), politics & governance & the role of government, conservation & the environment, economics (both traditional & behavioral), relationships, all facets of the arts, Civil/Women’s/LGBTQ rights, social justice, and ethnicity & the idea of race

What, you may be asking yourself, is the connection between 26.3 and the topics I’ve listed (in addition to numerous other topics)? Well, EVERYTHING. Everything that happens in our life, or doesn’t happen, is affected by policy; and policy is at the heart of almost everything that happens in our world. Policy, in its most basic form, is an idea about how something is to be done. At the lower end of policy procedure we would find things like, rules stating that the six year old who just hit the baseball off the tee must run to first base before advancing to second base. In the corporate world, food service for example, policies relating to hairnets being worn by any person having hair on their head or face would be another type of policy; a bit more serious than the chosen journey around the base path. At the top of the policy food-chain, we find the laws and regulations et al. that are debated, voted on, and subsequently implemented, if passed, or kicked back and re-configured before repeating the cycle (Presidential executive actions being the main exception to this procedure). Or, they are killed off if they don’t fall within the parameters of what is possible, politically, in a given congressional session.

So again, you ask, what’s the connection? Because we are all affected by policies of all shape, size, and color, we should know more about what they do, what they don’t do, what they could do, and what happens if they suddenly cease to exist. Moreover, in the big picture, you don’t know, what you don’t know. So by providing information about policies, potential policies, and ideas that, well, for lack of a better term, suck, you can make more informed choices about which candidate gets your vote, which way you’ll vote on a measure or proposition, and, should you choose not to vote, tell people exactly why you made that choice (though I highly encourage everyone to vote, early, but not often).

26.3ers are busy; and time is indeed our most precious commodity. So if you are interested in learning more about the who, what, and why of the rules/laws/policies that guide your life, spend 10-15 minutes a week here and get caught up on the low-down. In addition to all of the more serious stuff, I’ll include links to goings-on in various locations , eateries-breweries-wineries-distilleries, music (http://eauxclaires.com/) and other art happenings, and matters of historical significance.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Found the place Shel Silverstein was talking about; it's in St. Paul, MN.
Found the place Shel Silverstein was talking about; it’s in St. Paul, MN.

 

 

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